Autumn TV Recommendation: Haunted

Haunted (2018)

*Mild spoilers*

Netflix has just released this little anthology just in time for Halloween and I’m quite stoked about it.

I spent the majority of Sunday bingeing it in my pajamas and although I will concede that it won’t change your life, it does explore some interesting stories. What makes it especially chilling is the fact that these tales aren’t tales at all but real supernatural experiences told by real people.

We meet a man terrorised by The Woman in White, a women living with a demon called Clarence and another lady who is routinely taken by extra terrestrials in her sleep.

There’s the surviving daughter of a prolific serial killer and a man who’s life was made infinitely better by a trio of ghost children – and a few more.

What strikes me most about these stories is the sadness and isolation that accompanies many of these events. More than a couple of these now adults have spend a great deal of their lives living with a secret and that’s terrifying. Some tried to reach out to their parents who didn’t believe them or worse, punished them for speaking out.

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Oggly boggly!

These lives have been peppered with suffering and pain and it’s hard to watch these ordinary folk tell their stories to a select group of friends and family. The whole set up is a little like an intervention but it’s a safe place with no judgement, thankfully.

The most petrifying thing? Most of these experiences are ongoing. More than one of the ‘afflicted’ has become resigned to the fact that that’s that, they’re still living the experience. I can’t accept that somehow even though I believe in it wholeheartedly.

Imagine living with a real life demon/ghost for the rest of your days, with no control or choice in the matter?

Nope. Nope. Nope.

What are you watching?

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Final Girl Friday: Sara, Creep 2

Desiree Akhavan is a force to be reckoned with and has been super impressive in front of and behind the camera with Appropriate Behaviour (which she wrote, directed AND starred in), Girls and The Miseducation of Cameron Post to name but a few. So imagine my delight when she also appeared in the much-awaited sequel to one of my favorite movies, the sleeper hit Creep.

And now she’s the star of this week’s FGF!

*Spoilers – beware!*

The Girl

Sara, Creep 2 (2017)

The Situation

Sara is a videographer and student with a sideline YouTube channel called Encounters, in which she meets up with strangers who leave bizarre ads on Craiglist. Her numbers aren’t setting the world alight and she’s about to call it a day when she stumbles across an ad that really sparks her curiosity.

Aaron (Mark Duplass) is offering $1,000 to a filmmaker willing to document him for an entire day, as long as they don’t scare easily. Figuring she can go out with a bang following a brilliant finale, Sara digs in. She might live to regret her decision though, particularly when Aaron reveals he’s a serial killer.

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Nice wallpaper

The Final Girl

Sara is an interesting character. She’s self-motivated and very much doing all of this for the sake of her passion project. She’s also not afraid to use her feminine wiles to get what she wants, including getting in the hot tub with Aaron when he loses interest in their join venture and wants to kick her out. At one point Aaron also suggests they get the issue of wondering what the other looks like naked out of the way by… getting naked.

Sara outwardly is unflappable, though we realise quickly she’s giving herself pep talks in the loo. And also, for the most part she doesn’t believe what Aaron is telling her.
When it clicks, and she realises she might be in danger after all, she has the cunning to outsmart Aaron – and that’s the main quality required in any good final girl.

Sara was the perfect foil for Aaron, a serial killer just turning 40 and losing his desire to murder anymore. When she arrives, she mixes things up and not only does she ignite a new energy in Aaron, she also keeps the second film in this soon-to-be trilogy fresh and exciting. Where Creep had the real Aaron (Patrick Brice) play alongside Josef (who changes his name to Aaron for Creep 2, keep up), Sara bounces off Aaron (Josef) in a whole new way. And that ending!

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Final Girl Rating

4/5. I would watch the shit out of “Encounters”.

3 Witchy Horrors

None of these are really horror movies and one of them is pretty much a kids movie – but you can always argue that they contain horror themes and that’s enough for me.

I bet you all thought I’d choose Hocus Pocus for this list, didn’t you? I totally nearly did but young Michelle Pfeiffer pipped it to the post. I’ve no regrets.

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Relatable AF

The Witches of Eastwick (1987)

Men are such cocksuckers aren’t they? You don’t have to answer that. It’s true. They’re scared. Their dicks get limp when confronted by a woman of obvious power and what do they do about it? Call them witches, burn them, torture them, until every woman is afraid. Afraid of herself… afraid of men… and all for what? Fear of losing their hard-on. ~ Daryl Van Horne

What do you get when you put three of the hottest women of all time together, and then add Jack Nicholson? You get this charming film about a trio of witches who discover their hidden powers (and sexuality) when the devil comes to town.

There’s just something so delicious about The Witches of Eastwick. I feel as though it really captures a moment in time, the zeitgeist of the eighties. By casting the hottest actresses onscreen at that time, it’s a snap shot of a bygone era of film and I couldn’t love it more. It’s witty, grotesque and it also has a lot to say about grabbing life by the balls, even if the balls are attached to a very bad man indeed. Or indeed are a metaphor for something so much more fulfilling.

I can’t choose my favourite of the three, they’re all so gorgeous in their own ways; Suki (Pfeiffer) is the earth mother, Alex (Cher), the artistic hippy and Jane (Sarandon), the secretly sexual sex kitten music teacher. But together they’re a force to be reckoned with and what’s more satisfying than that?

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Resting Witch Faces

The Craft (1996)

We are the weirdos, mister. ~ Nancy

This is such a bitchy film and I was obsessed with it when it was first released, not least because I was ‘of an age’ (or maybe just a little bit older) that it all made sense. Especially the outcast aspect of the movie which fuels the narrative.

Nancy, Bonnie and Rochelle (Fairuza Balk, Neve Campbell, Rachel True) are three ordinary girls who aren’t particularly successful or significant in the high-school hierarchy. When Sarah (Robin Tunney) comes to town, she seems to be the perfect fourth pillar of the group. A group that needs things a certain way in order to make things happen. Magic things.

Well, it’s all a lesson in being careful what you wish for. After all, with power comes a fuck ton of responsibility and teenage girls aren’t always the most reliable, especially when they can make their bully’s hair fall out with a simple spell.

As things begin to spiral out of control and our friends begin to change (not for the better), one of them has to the tow the line before everything is lost forever. Can she? Also: Oh hi, Skeet Ulrich*swoon*

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The girls’ Bake Off showstopper was going well

Practical Magic (1998)

There’s a little witch in all of us. ~ Aunt Jet Owens

I guess you could say this is a Vintage edition of witch movies since none of them are from this millennium. *Shrug* – I love what I love and that’s that.

Practical Magic is adorable, hopeful and has a banging 90’s soundtrack – so as far as I’m concerned it’s up there with the best of them. Sally (Sandra Bullock) and Gillian Owens (Nicole Kidman) are sisters who come from a long line of witches. Including Aunt Frances (Stockard Channing) and Aunt Jet (Dianne Wiest).

They’re very different people. Sally is a homebody while Gillian is a free spirit with a tendency to disappear for long stretches, usually with strange, sexy men in tow. When Sally loses the love of her life in a tragic accident, she is beside herself with grief and Gillian comes home to be with her and her children, in the house they all share with the Aunts.

Little does Sally know there’s an ulterior motive and the sisters bite off almost more than they can chew when they re-animate Gillian’s latest lover – the abusive and accidentally dead Jimmy (Goran Visnjic) – using old school magique. Shame that neither got the memo that what is dead should probably stay dead, eh? Bit of a pisser too that the cop (Aidan Quinn) who turns up to investigate the mysterious disappearance of Jimmy, also happens to be connected to a very specific spell cast by Sally…

God I adore this movie. Both leads are dreamy as fuck and the Stevie Nicks heavy soundtrack will always have a place on my (outdated) iPod shuffle. *Sigh*

So yes, I could of chosen The Witch, The Blair Witch Project, The Lords of Salem – even The Love Witch for this list – and they are all fine movies – but these are the ones I want to pay tribute to today. Sue me.

What are your favourites?

Ouija: Origin of Evil (Film) Review

I thought maybe I’d seen this movie before but it turns out not to be true. Like exorcism movies, I always get my Ouija board films confused too.

In this case I’m so glad this was new to me because I’ve been binge watching The Haunting of Hill House (2018) this weekend*, which is by the director of this movie, Mike Flanagan. And while I was going through his filmography this popped up, which was already on my 31 Horrors list. Bingo!

*Spoilers*

Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016)

IMDB Synopsis

In 1967 Los Angeles, a widowed mother and her daughters add a new stunt to bolster their seance scam business by inviting an evil presence into their home, not realizing how dangerous it is.

My Review

It’s the swinging sixties and recently widowed Alice Zander (Elizabeth Reaser) has a pretty good fake medium racket going. With the help of her daughters Lina and Doris (Elizabeth Reaser and Lulu Wilson), she is able to convince ordinary folk that their late loved ones are communicating with them beyond the grave.

While some customers are dubious, Alice maintains that they’re offering the legitimate service of comfort and kindness – so who cares if it’s real? I sort of get her rhetoric to be honest. Anyway, the family are still pretty raw over the loss of Roger, the girls’ dad who has recently passed himself.

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I’d stick to Guess Who? if I were you, love.

When 15-year-old Lina goes to a sneaky house party at a friend’s house one evening, she stumbles across a Ouija board game, recently purchased by the parents of the household. Cynical about the so-called afterlife, Lina is level-headed when her and her friends sit down to have a play. Everyone’s freaked out but she is adamant that it’s all just a crock of shit.

She does suggest the Ouija to her mum as part of their scam business though and unfortunately for everyone concerned, Alice buys one. She has a little go before sharing with the group and little does she know, she summons a spirit called Marcus. Ooooooooo!

Doris also uses the board alone when she contacts her dad for help following a letter from the bank threatening foreclosure on the house. She is lead to a secret compartment in one of the walls that reveals a heap of money, thus saving the day.

The women then do the Ouija together believing it to be a pipeline straight to Roger. Doris seems to have the most affinity with the board and takes over as the star of the show but soon starts to pay the price. Slowly but surely she is possessed by something horrible. Lina gets freaked out by the change in her sister, particularly when she starts writing frenzied notes in what appears to be Polish.

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“Ouija pass me the salt, honey?”

Luckily, kindly widower Father Tom (Henry Thomas) is kicking about to help the family, and when Lina mentions Doris’ oddness, he comes over under the pretense of chatting to his deceased wife Gloria. He then reveals to Lina and Alice that the Polish shorthand notes are entries written by an immigrant named Marcus (and transcribed through Doris), who was tortured by an evil doctor in the basement of the house during World War II. Awkward.

Meanwhile, Doris just keeps getting weirder and weirder – and is very not okay, hun. Basically the house is rife with evil angry spirits down below and the family have got their work cut out for them. Will they come together when it matters to kick Marcus and his pals’ ghostly arses – or?

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Eye eye, Ouija look at that.

My Thoughts

Hmm. Yes. Yes I liked this very much. It’s a nice period piece loyal to the time period and is genuinely creepy. There are times it’s a little heavy handed on the effects but I didn’t mind that. All three women are convincing and I really enjoyed the climax.

I haven’t gone into it too deeply for fear of spoiling it but it is an interesting lament on grief and longing. Like, wouldn’t we all do similar just to speak to the precious ones we’ve lost? I know I would – and I have. My one and only brush with the Ouija when I was backpacking in Australia was terrifying and I believe it completely. Or at least I believe in the fear and behaviour it can invoke.

If we’re honest, there’s nothing earth-shatteringly new here but something Mike Flanagan does well is characterisation (back to Hill House) and he obviously has a lot of love for the genre, which comes across in his work. I’m a big fan and I really like how he continues to use the same actors across the board. Maybe I’m a bit biased because I love HH so much (*and will be waffling on about it soon) but this was good too.

My Rating

3.5/5.

What does my little demon think of this one? Would she haunt it until the end of time or throw it in the goddamn furnace? Find out here.

Scream Queen Girl Gang (Modern Edition)

These are the actresses I’d most like to have a pint and share eyeliner with because they seem cool. And you know, if we ever happened to get into any trouble, then I’d be confident in their ability to help me fight to the death – which is a pretty good quality to pick in a friend. Just saying.

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Freddy Vs. Jason (2003)

Katharine Isabelle

Horror CV: Ginger Snaps, Carrie (TV Movie), Freddy vs. Jason, American Mary, Torment, Hannibal (TV Series)

I adore Miss Isabelle, not least because she’s the lead in a couple of my favourites (Ginger Snaps, American Mary). She’s Canadian (like me) and she’s lovely – and I just think we’d get along.

According to IMDB there was friction on set between her and the director of Freddy Vs. Jason because she refuses to do nudity – and I like that she’s not afraid to stick to her guns. You do you, boo. I just wish she was in way more – my favourite modern-day Scream Queen 4 lyfe.

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Don’t Breathe (2016)

Jane Levy

Horror CV: Evil Dead, Don’t Breathe, Castle Rock (TV Series)

Jane Levy first popped up in Suburgatory and was the best thing in it. Then the remake of Evil Dead came along and she was brilliant. Genuinely. The film itself took fresh liberties with the story which kept it modern and set it apart from the originals (which are amazing) – plus she was the final girl!

Jane herself has gone on to star in Don’t Breathe, a film I wish I liked more and I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore, which is a GREAT movie that also stars one of the other members of this gang (see below). They incidentally also star together in Stephen King inspired TV series, Castle Rock.

I don’t know, I just think she’s cool and hopefully as sarcastic as some of the characters she’s played. Sarcastic is good.

Brittany Snow stars in Screen Gems' thriller PROM NIGHT.
Prom Night (2008)

Brittany Snow

Horror CV: Prom Night, Would You Rather

I feel sometimes like the world needs a doe eyed Brittany to keep things on an even keel – and without Brittany Murphy (RIP), the crown fell naturally to my girl. This Brittany has done the rounds as a teen icon but she’s so much more than that. She’s so convincing in Would You Rather than I often think about that film and how I’d fare in the same situation. She can also tow the line between popcorn movies (the Pitch Perfect trilogy) and lesser appreciated indies (Bushwick).

Brittany has been quite open about her struggle with depression and self-harm in the past and in 2010 she started the Love is Louder movement to support anyone feeling mistreated, misunderstood or alone – which is awesome.

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Melanie Lynskey

Horror CV: Rose Red (TV Mini-Series), XX (segment “The Birthday Party”), Castle Rock (TV Series)

I love Mel, the Indie Sweetheart. Jill and I are such fans we enjoyed a Melanie Lynskey month on the Blog Collab in 2017 – spurred on by the aforementioned I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore. We both heavily related to her seriously pissed off character Ruth who is driven to drastic action when she’s let down by the feds following a burglary.

Imagine my delight then when she popped up as Mary in the St. Vincent directed segment of XXX called Birthday Cake. Now she’s rocking her part in Castle Rock alongside Jane Levy – and even though I’ve been quite slow on the uptake, I’m enjoying her very much in it.

Melanie is my age so she’d get my pop culture references and she looks like a laugh so I’m confident we’d be the best of all BFFs.

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American Horror Story: Cult (2017)

Sarah Paulson

Sarah Paulson would be our mate from out of town who pops up occasionally to hang out. I don’t need to go into why she’s great as I’ve been banging on a lot about American Horror Story lately, she just is.

And that, my friends is my Scream Queen Girl Gang.

Who would you choose?

The Monday Feeling

I have a super power. I’m not sure why but wherever I go, people tell me things. Deep and meaningful snippets of detail from their lives that I don’t ask for. I love it though – it makes me feel good to be trusted and it must mean I have an open face.

I think sometimes if you make eye contact with someone you tend to connect with them whether you like it or not. This can backfire in certain social situations, like on holiday when you want to be left alone or on the bus. On the plane to Copenhagen, which was delayed for 2.5 hours, I got talking to the American guy beside me and by the time I’d landed I knew his fiance’s name, how he proposed, their upcoming wedding date, where he worked in Chicago and his favourite film. Not to mention his political views and where he stood on religion.

For the most part I wouldn’t change a thing – I’d much rather be approachable than not. I’m giggling as I think about the handful of friends I have that would seriously disagree with me.

Anyway, I was going to write about my favourite witch films today but have decided to bump that post in favour of this one because I’m kind of buzzing about a conversation I had with the woman in the Co-op last week, and this morning.

Before I start, I should write a disclaimer to say that the Co-op seems to be the scene of a lot of these scenarios for me. Years ago I befriended a guy behind the counter who used to give me leftover flowers most mornings and then went off to have a tummy tuck. My friend Darren found it hilarious how much information I would be bombarded with while handing over money for my cheese & pickle sandwiches. And all while the queue backed up behind me considerably.

Now it’s a woman in town who’s a little bit younger than me. On Friday she was all over the place so I asked her if she was okay. She revealed that she was in a 17 year relationship that had gone off the boil and was now messaging someone else. While I didn’t ask, she was pretty willing to go in on the fact that her long-term boyfriend was taking her for granted and the new one was exciting and super-attentive (they always are at this stage, babe). I had to tell her I’d been there in the same situation because I have – and that she should seriously try to do what’s right for herself.

Well! This morning she greeted me with the biggest smile and told me she’d ended it over the weekend. Nothing about the new guy because it isn’t even about him. It’s about her. She said she was walking on air and that it went so much better than she’d anticipated. Now she has the rest of her life to look forward to – and won’t be turning 40 in a horrible relationship. And man, I FELT HER. I felt it all.

I have been there and I remember the absolute high of finally being free, the greatest feeling of all time. The fear, the anticipation, the realisation that all future decisions were my own, that I had a choice – and that I could change everything if I wanted to. She’s going to feel up and down for a while but over all, she’s going to feel on top of the goddamn world and it makes me so happy for her. You go for it, girl, enjoy every minute!

So people tell me things and I love it but I particularly love it when it’s a good story and one I can personally cheer for. She’s so nice this lady that I imagine we could be friends in IRL. And as for all the other secrets well they stay here with me, not to be blogged about. Ever.

“That’s why her hair is so big, it’s full of secrets.” ~ Damian, Mean Girls

Horror F(r)iends

I might not have made it clear enough on this blog: I live for the movies. All movies really but mainly horror. Good horror, bad horror, cheap horror – most of it has a place in this old heart of mine. My absolute favourites of all time include Candyman and Hellraiser – with a whole lot of variety in between – and what better month than this to revisit the classics and discover new and exciting horror gems?

This post isn’t strictly about those movies though (we’ll do a 31 Horrors recap at the end of the month), it’s about the like-minded friends who love the same movies I do (specifically horror). People like this, the ones who really really get you are like gold dust I swear and this post is for them.

Of course anyone who reads this blog will be familiar with my blog wife Jillian already. We originally bonded over our love of odd movies and are now three years deep into our Great Blog Collab. Our specialty, and favourite month just happens to be Halloween so you could say we’re on the same page when it comes to horror films (and shark movies but they get their own month). In fact, Ginger Snaps is the first film we ever reviewed together, FACT FANS. We also appreciate women on murderous rampages, Film Noir and women who look good smoking.

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Katharine Isabelle, werewolves AND smoking? The holy horror trinity (read my review here)

Jill and I have had some real hits and misses over the years but most times seem to more or less agree on the ratings. Sometimes the films we pick are too good and that can be a problem when our original MO is to snark the hell out of the things we watch – but you can’t win them all. I’m so thankful for Jill, one of the best things to come out of blogging for me – a gorgeous friend online and IRL now too.

James, my podcast partner also deserves a shout out for sitting through some of the dreck I’ve made him watch over the years in the name of content. Cat Sick Blues, anyone? (I do NOT recommend). We’ve also explored a lot of anti-horror together. To name but a few: Felt, The Sacrament, Magic Magic, Spring and Digging Up the Marrow – all of which could be categorised outside the genre comfortably but are definitely shining examples of horror done well.

Honestly, the podcast has brought me so much joy and being able to just waffle on about films until the cows come home is the best thing ever. There’s a limit to how much people want to talk to me about these things so to find a like-minded partner is priceless, honestly. I hope we never stop. Even if James doesn’t rate The Exorcist III.

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Felt (2014)

And last but by no means least my lovely friend Matt who unwittingly inspired today’s post. Matt is the most knowledgeable horror fiend I know and even though we’ve only known each other for a year, I feel like he’s my horror twin. This morning we compared notes via messenger on what we’ve watched this month already and those are the conversations I live for.

We’re even planning a really cool project off the back of our interests and it is going to be so ace I can’t even tell you. I’ll share more when we’ve actually got off our bottoms and made solid plans. This week we’re just treading water until Halloween (2018) is released.

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Hai bae ❤

I can’t not shout out my husband as well, who puts up with all my shit and still seems to like me. Who hasn’t wavered (yet) when I’ve forced him to get involved in my 31 Horrors challenge. Who suggested The Company of Wolves for tonight’s viewing – and who’s just super-cute most of the time. How lucky am I?

So today I am feeling extra blessed to have these people in my life so we can share our common interests like the beasts that we are.

Thanks for being as horrible as I am deep down 🎃👻🔪